The Roundup -

Air Show Dedicated to Petrik


Phil Petrik had an extensive aviation career and knew about or was part of everything that happened at the Richland County Airport from 1963 until 2014.

The 2016 Wings of Freedom Airshow is being dedicated to Phil Petrik, a man with an extensive aviation career, and founder of a unique family business that is still thriving today.

At 16 years old, Petrik built a Smith Mini Plane in his family's garage, and would go on to build several Pit Specials. His early career was spent flying aerobatic planes, however fatherhood shifted his focus.

He started a crop spraying service in 1971, using a Grumman Ag Cat biplane, which became notably associated with Petrik. When people saw the big yellow plane in the skies, they knew it was him. When he returned to crop dusting in the nineties, it would once again be his go-to airplane.

"I vividly remember him saying that spraying crops was his favorite kind of flying," said his son Mike Petrik. "It was what he got the most satisfaction and enjoyment from."

In 1976, Phil Petrik bought a Beech Bonanza and began flying charter planes in addition to crop spraying. In 1981 he bought Burns Flying Service and renamed it Richland Aviation, strictly flying passenger planes, which are on demand air taxies. In 2012 the Beech Bonanza airplane was sold to another local pilot, and Mike Petrik bought it back in June of this year.

"He called that plane his war-horse. It was the one that paid for all the other planes after it," remembers Mike Petrik.

Phil Petrik also owned several Twin Cessnas and Richland Aviation continues to operate a fleet of Cessnas today.

After buying the business, he contracted with the Federal Reserve Bank in Helena, MT as a courier pilot which he would do until 1991. Each afternoon, couriers would travel from one rural town to the next, picking up checks and delivering them to the Helena Bank, and returning to the local banks in the morning. Later he would contract with the United Postal Service, which Richland Aviation still does today. Another interesting aspect of Phil Petrik's charter service was that he took patients in need of specialty care to larger hospitals.

One New Year's Eve while out feeding his cattle, a man took a drink from what he thought was a water bottle in the darkness of his truck. The bottle actually contained farm grade chemicals that would certainly result in blindness if he didn't receive appropriate treatment within three hours; the individual met Phil Petrik at the airport and arrived in Billings in time to save his sight.

He was also certified by the FFA as a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE); in order to get a pilot's license a certain number of hours flying are needed as well as passing a written test. After that, Phil Petrik would perform check rides, flying with the training pilot, and would sign off on their pilot's license if the flight was completed successfully. During his 20 years as a DPE he gave hundreds of check flights and signed off on hundreds of pilot licenses.

In 1995, he began to get back into crop dusting and was involved with all of the previous air shows, performing at the one held in 2009. Sadly, Phil Petrik passed away in 2014, leaving behind friends and family who think the world of him.

"There aren't a lot of successful family owned businesses like Richland Aviation left. My dad had a profound effect on a lot of people. When the Air Show Committee suggested this year's air show being dedicated to him, I thought it was a great idea. He was a very accomplished pilot and an exceptional guy," said Mike Petrik.

The 2016 Wings of Freedom Airshow will be held Sept 24th and 25th at the Richland County Airport at 1:00pm both days. Many amazing pilots will be performing, including the Canadian Snowbirds. Tickets are $15 for ages 15 and up, $10 for ages 6 – 14, and kids 5 and under are free; they can be purchased in Sidney at the Chamber of Commerce located at 909 S Central Ave., Richland Aviation located at 544 Airport Road, Reynolds Market and Yellowstone Bank located at 120 2nd St. NW.

"So often men work at leaving behind a legacy for their family. In his case he left not only a legacy for his family, but a legacy for the aviation community. It's a blessing to be a part of that," said Sarah Petrik of her father-in-law.


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